Ernest Just was a pioneering African American scientist. He was an outstanding research biologist and was known as the “scientist’s scientist”.  He studied egg fertilisation and the structure of cells, mainly how a fetus develops and how an animal cell functions. His first two years at college were lonely and discouraging but he saw them through.  This Black boy from South Carolina made himself one of the greatest scientists in the early part of 20th century.

He was not interested in awards and praise.  He just wanted to get on with his work.  In 1914 he even tried to refuse a medal, but anyway he was given the National Association of the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) Springarn Medal. The first to receive the medal. 

Although he tried to stay away from the limelight, the news of his work spread all over the world. 

In all, he wrote two major books and over sixty scientific papers. His book, the Biology of the Cell Surface, which was used in many U.S. colleges and universities, represented his lifetime of research, and was published in 1939, just two years before he died. The other book Basic methods for experiments on eggs of marine animals, was the scientists handbook for experimentation.

In his early years, Just’s father died. He was brought by his mother Mary Matthews Just.

She worked in the phosphate mines [on James Island near Charleston] and according to Hutcheson, “negotiated a solid investment in one of the sought-after plots in the village in 1888.” In Kenneth R. Manning’s biography of Ernest Just, Black Apollo of Science: The Life of Ernest Everett Just, Manning uses Just’s letters as supporting evidence that the [all Black] town was named for Ernest’s mother, Mary. He writes: “she became a strong community leader, canvassing the inhabitants, mostly men, and persuading them to transform the settlement into a town. They called the town, Maryville, after its prime mover.”

Internet archive and Charleston Public Library

When he graduated from Dartmouth, Just faced the same problems all black college graduates of his time did: no matter how brilliant they were or how high their grades were, it was almost impossible for black people to become faculty members at white colleges or universities. Just took what seemed to be the best choice available to him and accepted a teaching position at historically black Howard University in Washington, D.C. In 1907, Just first began teaching rhetoric and English, fields somewhat removed from his specialty. By 1909, however, he was teaching not only English but also Biology. 

In 1910, he was put in charge of a newly formed biology department by Howard’s president, Wilbur P. Thirkield and, in 1912, he became head of the new Department of Zoology, a position he held until his death in 1941. Not long after beginning his appointment at Howard, Just was introduced to Frank R. Lillie, the head of the Department of Zoology at the University of Chicago. Lillie, who was also director of the Marine Biological Laboratory (MBL) at Woods Hole, Massachusetts, invited Just to spend the summer of 1909 as his research assistant at the MBL. During this time and later, Just’s experiments focused mainly on the eggs of marine invertebrates. He investigated the fertilization reaction and the breeding habits of species such as Platynereis megalops, Nereis limbata, and Arbacia punctulata. For the next 20 or so years, Just spent every summer but one at the MBL.

While at the MBL, Just learned to handle marine invertebrate eggs and embryos with skill and understanding, and soon his expertise was in great demand by both junior and senior researchers alike. In 1915, Just took a leave of absence from Howard to enroll in an advanced academic program at the University of Chicago. That same year, Just, who was gaining a national reputation as an outstanding young scientist, was the first recipient of the NAACP’s Spingarn Medal, which he received on February 12, 1915. The medal recognized his scientific achievements and his “foremost service to his race.” 

He began his graduate training with coursework at the MBL: in 1909 and 1910 he took courses in invertebrate zoology and embryology, respectively, there. His coursework continued in-residence at the University of Chicago. His duties at Howard delayed the completion of his coursework and his receipt of the Ph.D. degree. However, in June 1916, Just received his degree in zoology, with a thesis on the mechanics of fertilization. Just thereby became one of only a handful of blacks who had gained the doctoral degree from a major university. By the time he received his doctorate from Chicago, he had already published several research articles, both as a single author and a co-author with Lillie. 

During his tenure at Woods Hole, Just rose from student apprentice to internationally respected scientist. A careful and meticulous experimentalist, he was regarded as “a genius in the design of experiments.” He had explored other areas including: experimental parthenogenesis, cell division, hydration, dehydration in cells, UV carcinogenic radiation on cells, and physiology of development.

Just, however, became frustrated because he could not obtain an appointment at a major American university. He wanted a position that would provide a steady income and allow him to spend more time with his research. Just’s scientific career involved a constant struggle for an opportunity for research, “the breath of his life”. He was condemned by racism to remain attached to Howard, an institution that could not give full opportunity to ambitions such as the ones Just had. 

In 1929, Just travelled to Naples, Italy, where he conducted experiments at the prestigious zoological station “Anton Dohrn”. Then, in 1930, he became the first American to be invited to the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute in Berlin-Dahlem, Germany, where several Nobel Prize winners carried out research. Altogether from his first trip in 1929 to his last in 1938, Just made ten or more visits to Europe to pursue research. It was during this time, that Just co-authored on a research paper with a few other scientists, called, “General Cytology,” which Scientists treated him like a celebrity and encouraged him to extend his theory on the ectoplasm to other species. J

ust enjoyed working in Europe because he did not face as much discrimination there in comparison to the U.S. and when he did encounter racism, it invariably came from Americans. Beginning in 1933, when the Nazis began to take the control of the country, Just ceased his work in Germany. He later moved his European-based studies to Paris and to the marine laboratory at the French fishing village of Roscoff, located on the English channel.

Just authored two books, Basic Methods for Experiments on Eggs of Marine Animals (1939) and The Biology of the Cell Surface (1939), and he also published at least seventy papers in the areas of cytology, fertilization and early embryonic development. He discovered what is known as the fast block to polyspermy; he further elucidated the slow block, which had been discovered by Fol in the 1870s; and he showed that the adhesive properties of the cells of the early embryo are surface phenomena exquisitely dependent on developmental stage.

He believed that the conditions used for experiments in the laboratory should closely match those in nature; in this sense, he can be considered to have been an early ecological developmental biologist. His work on experimental parthenogenesis informed Johannes Holtfreter’s concept of “autoinduction” which, in turn, has broadly influenced modern evolutionary and developmental biology. His investigation of the movement of water into and out of living egg cells (all the while maintaining their full developmental potential) gave insights into internal cellular structure that is now being more fully elucidated using powerful biophysical tools and computational methods.

These experiments anticipated the non-invasive imaging of live cells that is being developed today. Although Just’s experimental work showed an important role for the cell surface and the layer below it, the “ectoplasm,” in development, it was largely and unfortunately ignored. This was true even with respect to scientists who emphasized the cell surface in their work. It was especially true of the Americans; with the Europeans, he fared somewhat better.

Ernest Just in Wikipedia

Sadly when the Nazis invaded France at the start of WWII, Ernest Just was interned and put into a prisoner of war camp. His second wife, Hedwig Schnetzler, negotiated his release and he returned to his home country of America. By that time he was already ill and he died on 27th October 1941. He was born on 14th August 1883.

Further reading

Black Apollo of Science: The Life of Ernest Everett Just is a biography of African-American biologist Ernest Everett Just, written in 1983 by Kenneth R. Manning, African American author who gained his PhD from Harvard University.

My Black History Dr. Ernest Everett Just

“Through his excellence on the cricket field, Sir Everton helped in a fundamental way to change Barbados for the better, forever, by proving that true excellence cannot be constrained by social barriers.”

– PM of Barbados Owen Arthur

Sir Everton Weekes one of the Three W’s and one of the world’s greatest cricketers, he was born in a wooden shack in Pickwick Gap, St. Michael, Barbados on 26th February 1925.

Leaving school at 14 with no job, Weekes honed his cricketing and football skills on the streets of Barbados, before joining the army in 1943. Joining the army allowed him to play cricket at a higher level under the Barbados Cricket Association. It’s never been clear if it was his deliberate plan to further his sporting ambitions.

Weekes had a classic batting style, possessed a variety of shots on both sides of the wicket, and is considered one of the hardest hitters in cricket history. Sir Everton had a phenomenal international career scoring 4,235 runs in 46 tests, averaging 58.01 and scoring 14 centuries and 19 half centuries, he was the fastest in world to reach 1000 Test runs (shares the record with Herbert Sutcliffe) by achieving the feat in the 12th innings of his career, but more of this later.

His county cricket in England was spent at Bacup Cricket Club, Lancashire between 1948 and 1959. In the Lancashire leagues he was described as a devastating batsman scoring 25 centuries and passing 1,000 runs in each season. In the 1951 season he scored 1,518 for Bacup Cricket Club which remains a record to this day. When he first arrived in Bacup.

Weekes was greatly affected by the cold and took to wearing an army great coat everywhere, to the extent it became part of his League image. His homesickness for Barbados was tempered by his landlady’s potato pies and the presence of Frank Worrell and Clyde Walcott, they met up at Sir Everton’s home regularly to play jazz piano and sing. So revered was Sir Everton Weekes in Bacup, that the town council have proposed building a lasting memorial in his honour.

The THREE W’s

The term ‘Three W’s’ was coined by a British journalist during the 1950 West Indies tour of England. In that tour Weekes was in excellent form, scoring 338 runs at 56.33 and playing a significant part in the West Indies 3–1 victory in the Test series, as well as 2310 first-class runs at 79.65 (including five double centuries, a record for a West Indian tour of England). In 1951 Weekes was named ‘Wisden Cricketer of the Year’ for his outstanding performances.

The ‘Three W’s’, were of course himself, Sir Clyde Walcott and Sir Frank Worrell, all noted as the outstanding batsmen from Barbados of their time, who all made their Test debut in 1948 against England. The three were all born within seventeen months of each other and within a mile of Kensington Oval in Barbados and Walcott believed that the same midwife delivered each of them. Weekes first met Walcott in 1941, aged 16, when they were team mates in a trial match. They shared a room together when on tour and, along with Worrell, would go dancing together on Saturday nights after playing cricket.

His career showed a steely determination of pure cricketing genius and yet he was a humble gentle man, the statistics however are mind blowing.  

CompetitionTests Firstclass
Matches48 152
Runs scored4,455 12,010
Batting average58.61 55.34
100s/50s15/19 36/54
Top score207 304*
Balls bowled122 1,137
Wickets1 17
Bowling average77.00 43.00
Best bowling1/8 4/38
Catches/stumpings49/– 124/1

He continued to play first-class cricket until 1964, when he surpassed 12,000 first-class runs in his final innings. He died on 1st July 2020. Barbados Today and the Guardian amongst other publications had heart warming obituaries for this cricket legend.

“By sitting down we were standing up for the very best in American tradition” – Martin Luther King

The Greensboro Sit-ins in 1960 were organised by four young black students, Joseph McNeilFranklin McCainEzell Blair Jr., and David Richmond, they became known as the Greensboro Four.

Influenced by the Non-Violent protest icons such as Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King and the Journey of Reconciliation organised by the Congress of Racial Equality, the four men executed a plan to draw attention to racial segregation in the private sector.

February 1st 1960 was D-day and the target was F. W. Woolworths Five & Dime Store in Greensboro, North Carolina.

Before I move on let’s look at the courage and enormity of what happened here, their lives were at risk, this was the spark that ignited the Civil Rights Movement in the Southern states, this sit-in was a contributing factor in the formation of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), it was the inspiration behind the subsequent sit-in movement, in which 70,000 people participated, it led to stores including F. W. Woolworth abandoning segregation policies.

On that momentous day when they were refused service and told that Woolworths do not serve Negroes at their lunch counter. The four men had anticipated problems and bought small items and retained the receipt as proof of purchase, and proof they were paying customers of Woolworths, before sitting down at the store’s lunch counter.

While Blacks were allowed to patronise the dining area, they were relegated to a standing snack bar, as the lunch counter was designated for ‘Whites only’. The Greensboro Four politely requested service at the counter, remaining seated while their orders were refused by the waiting staff.

The lunch counter manager contacted the police, but Johns had already alerted the local media. The police arrived, only to declare that they could do nothing because the four men were paying customers of the store and had not taken any provocative actions.

The last person to approach the Greensboro Four on that first day was an elderly White lady, who rose from her seat in the counter area and walked over toward McCain. She sat down next to him and looked at the four students and told them she was disappointed in them. McCain, in his Air Force ROTC uniform was ready to defend his actions, but remained calm and asked the woman:

“Ma’am, why are you disappointed in us for asking to be served like everyone else?” McCain recalled the woman looking at them, putting her hand on Joe McNeil’s shoulder and saying, “I’m disappointed it took you so long to do this”.

The four sat there until the store closed, however the next day they returned with 20 more Black students and the media interest began. By days 3 and 4 more students joined them including White students and females, over 300 participated causing the sit-in to spill out onto the streets. Lunch staff continued to refuse service, and North Carolina’s official chaplain of the Ku Klux Klan, George Dorsett, as well as other members of the Klan, were present.

The F.W. Woolworth national headquarters said that the company would ‘abide by local custom’ and maintain its segregation policy.

On February 5th things turned much darker when the Klan organised 50 White men to occupy positions in the store in opposition to the students creating a tense situation. In spite of this by 3pm there were 300 protesters. The protesters maintained their dignified non-violent stance under extreme harassment, physical violence and having the dining counter condiments (salt, sauces etc.) poured over their heads. Meeting between students, college officials, and store representatives took place, but failed to find a resolution. In truth by now there could only be one resolution, de-segregation.

The protests now were getting world attention – February 6th was viewed with anticipation, fear and trepidation, with good reason, but none the less over 1,000 protesters turned up for the Sit-in.

A bomb threat was sent to the store for 1.30pm that day and Woolworths had to be evacuated and closed. However it was too late to stop the sit-in protest which was now spreading across many American southern cities and states including Kentucky, Richmond, Lexington, and Nashville. In March President Dwight D. Eisenhower expressed his concern for those who were fighting for their human and civil rights, saying that he was:

“deeply sympathetic with the efforts of any group to enjoy the rights of equality that they are guaranteed by the Constitution”.

The action of the Greensboro Four on February 1 was an incredible act of courage, but it wasn’t unique. There had been previous sit-ins. In 1957, for instance, seven African Americans staged one at the segregated Royal Ice Cream Parlor in Durham, North Carolina. What made Greensboro different was how it grew from a courageous moment to a revolutionary movement. The combination of organic and planned ingredients came together to create an unprecedented youth activism that changed the direction of the Civil Rights Movement and the nation itself. The results of this complex and artful recipe are difficult to faithfully replicate. Besides the initial, somewhat spontaneous February 1 act of courage, more components were needed.

The essential ingredient in this protest was publicity.

Afro Supa Hero in life and death

Jon Daniel was an award-winning creative director whose range of work – from ad campaigns, to magazine columns and exhibition curation – led to accolades and notoriety across London and further afield.

Born in London in 1966 and a long-term resident of Milkwood Road in Herne Hill, his mother, Sheila, came from Grenada and worked as a district nurse and his father, Horace, came from Barbados and worked for London Transport before moving into the civil service. Daniel was a hugely talented artist and a passionate supporter of local community groups.

He channelled what he called his:

“over-active mind and imagination,”

into a graphic design course, working for 25 years as an art director for many of London’s leading ad agencies.

The award-winning designer and graphic artist of Afro Supa Hero, was one of the most prominent black creatives of his generation and a pivotal player in capturing the essence of the Black British struggle and empowerment through his art.

He passed away far too soon at just 51 years of age of Pneumonia in 2017.

Jon Daniel obituary

By his friend Stuart Husbands written for The Guardian Newspaper 31st Pctober 2017

My friend Jon Daniel, who has died of pneumonia aged 51, was an award-winning creative director whose range of work – from ad campaigns, to efforts to raise black consciousness, to magazine columns, to exhibition curation – was as various as the man himself. Whether he was spearheading an attempt to get the Royal Mail to take up his designs for a set of stamps highlighting the black contribution to Britain, or gleefully detailing his latest celebrity sighting at Herne Hill station, he did it with a winning and infectious enthusiasm.

Jon was born in London, the child of West Indian immigrants. His mother, Sheila, came from Grenada and worked as a district nurse; his father, Horace, came from Barbados and worked for London Transport before moving into the civil service. The family – he had two brothers, Damian and Tony – lived in East Sheen, and while Jon’s afro was an object of intense fascination at school, he didn’t recall any overt racism:

“just a sense of difference”.

He steeped himself in the West Indian culture of his extended family and the African-American move from the civil rights era into 70s funk. His older brother, Tony, introduced him to bands such as the Ohio Players, Brass Construction, Cameo and Slave; he devoured the biographies of Malcolm X and Martin Luther King. He channelled what he called his “over-active mind and imagination” into a graphic design course, working for 25 years as an art director for many of London’s leading ad agencies.

In 1993 he married Jane Cullen, a fellow art director; his assiduous and prolonged wooing of her remains legendary among the couple’s many friends. Jon was a devoted husband and father to their two sons, Noah and Gil.

Latterly, Jon followed one of the key precepts of his idol (and friend) George Clinton – “If you ain’t gonna get it on, take your dead ass home” – in being an advocate for the past achievements and current aspirations of the Black diaspora and their second- and third-generation descendants. He worked on campaigns and branding for Black History Month and Operation Black Vote; he collaborated with Ms Dynamite, Soul II Soul and the Black Cultural Archives; and he championed previous creative trailblazers in 4 Corners, his regular column for Design Week.

His show Post-Colonial: Stamps from the African Diaspora, was hosted at the London store of Stanley Gibbons, the global stamp emporium, in 2011. Then there was Afro Supa Hero, Jon’s exhibition based on his personal collection of black action figures and comic books. It had started with the acquisition of a Malcolm X doll in the mid-90s; by 2013, when the collection went on show at the V&A Museum of Childhood in Bethnal Green, it encompassed everything from Harriet Tubman and Meteor Man action figures to Black Goliath comics, Harlem Globetrotters board games and Jon’s Afro Supa Star-branded mugs.

Whether watching the crowds delighting in the Afro Supa Hero exhibits on the show’s opening night, or attending one of his regular, jam-packed birthday parties at the White Lion in Streatham, or wolfing down rice and peas alongside dub steppers and design luminaries, Jon’s own superpower was immediately apparent. It lay in his ability to bring people together, no matter their background or station, and infuse them with his unquenchable generosity of spirit.

More for Jon Daniels

REPEATING ISLANDS: News and commentary on Caribbean culture, literature, and the arts – Rembering Jon Daniel: 1966-2017

Operation Black Vote (OBV) articles. including Jon Daniel, Black politics and me: Jon and his then creative partner Trevor Robinson in advertising said they’d provide £250k marketing nous for OBV for free and sponsorship of £25k. They walked into the OBV office and said, “This is our gig. This is a Black project and right now it will be best executed by Black creatives who can feel what you feel and help translate that into a dynamic message and the very best results.”

Design Week: Remembering Jon Daniel – a series of some of Daniels Best contributions

Facebook interview with Jon Daniel

Gary Krenz in LSA Magazine cited Randall and Imes for publishing in 1919 a single work that ushered in a new field of research, “the study of molecular structure through the use of high-resolution infrared spectroscopy. Their work revealed for the first time the detailed spectra of simple-molecule gases, leading to important verification of the emerging quantum theory and providing, for the first time, an accurate measurement of the distances between atoms in a molecule.”

Letter from a Former Student of Bouchet – sent to Dr. Ronald E. Mickens, Associate Professor of Physics at Fisk University

Taken from the post in Black Past:

Elmer Samuel Imes (1883-1941)

Physicist Elmer S. Imes, an internationally recognized early authority on infrared spectroscopy, was born in Memphis, Tennessee, on October 12, 1883, the son of Benjamin Imes, a minister, and the former Elizabeth Wallace, an ex-slave. Both of his parents were alumni of Oberlin College in Ohio and worked as missionaries in the South. Imes attended high school in Alabama and in 1903 graduated with a bachelor’s degree in general science from historically black Fisk University in Nashville, Tennessee. He remained in academe, teaching physics and mathematics at the Georgia Normal and Agricultural Institute in Albany, Georgia, (present-day Albany State University) and the Emerson Institute in Mobile, Alabama, both historically black schools of higher learning in the racially segregated South.

In 1910, Imes returned to Fisk to teach and earned his master’s degree there in science in 1915. With a strong inclination for research, he enrolled at the University of Michigan and, with the assistance of a University Fellowship, earned his doctorate in physics in 1918, only the second African American to do so since Edward Bouchetat Yale University in 1876. His dissertation, titled “Measurements on the Near-Infrared Absorption of Some Diatomic Gases,” was published in 1919 in the renowned Astrophysical Journal. That same year, Imes and his former academic mentor at Michigan, Harrison A. Randall, shook the scientific world with a co-authored paper in Physical Review, titled “The Fine Structure of the Near Infra-Red Absorption Bands of HCI, HBr, and HF.”  It elaborated on the journal article by offering the first confirmation of the distances between atoms in molecules, widening the breath of appropriate applications of quantum theory, and presented evidence of two chlorine isotopes—finding that would be repeated cited by scientists and soon contained in textbooks.

In 1919, Imes married the novelist Nella Larsen, one of the luminaries of the Harlem Renaissance, which prompted a change in his residence from Jersey City, New Jersey to New York City, New York to rub shoulders with Harlem’s intellectual elite, among them W.E.B. DuBois and Langston Hughes. Despite his scientific achievements, Imes found it difficult to find employment in white-dominated schools and businesses, but he eventually landed researcher positions in the New Jersey-New York region at the Federal Engineers Development Corporation, the Burrows Magnetic Equipment Corporation, Everett Signal Supplies, and served as a consultant to Autoxygen, Incorporated. During his eight years of work in the corporate world between 1922 and 1930, Imes filed numerous patents, four of which were for instruments that gauged magnetic and electric properties.  Imes may have been better known and respected among European physicists who were unaware of his race than by white American physicists.

Imes returned to Fisk in 1930, this time to mentor black students who would succeed in obtaining graduate degrees at major universities and to become chairman of Fisk’s Department of Physics. Divorced from Nella Larsen in 1933 and later plagued by professional, financial, and health problems, he died from throat cancer in Memorial Hospital in New York City on September 11, 1941.

Read more about Elmer Samuel Imes

National Society of Black Physicists: Specifically, his (Elmer Imes’] work was one of the earliest applications of high resolution infrared spectroscopy and provided the first detailed spectra of molecules giving way to the study molecular structure through infrared spectroscopy. This work led to him being the first African-American to be published in a physics journal in the United States.

Physics Today – The life and work of Elmer Samuel Imes by Ronald E. Mickens 2018: Imes’s measurements provided accurate experimental proof that rotational energy was quantized, and he was quickly recognized as a major figure among the small group of researchers focused on spectroscopy. In 1974 Earle Plyler, a US physicist and pioneer in the fields of IR spectroscopy and molecular spectroscopy, wrote that:

“up until the work of Imes, there was doubt about the universal applicability of the quantum theory to radiation in all parts of the electromagnetic spectrum. Some held it was useful only for atomic spectra (electronic spectra); some held that it was applicable for all electromagnetic radiation…. Imes’s work formed a turning point in the scientific thinking, making it clear that quantum theory was not just a novelty, useful in limited fields of physics, but of widespread and general application.”

Letter From a Former Student of Bouchet: Appendix C Elmer Samuel Imes Scientist, Inventor, Teacher, Scholar: Elmer Samuel Imes was the first black scientist to make a significant contribution to physics. His work had a major impact on the understanding and interpretation of quantum phenomena during the period from 1919 to 1925. He also made contributions to physics instrumentation through his construction and improvements to infrared spectrometers. During his lifetime, his research was extensively quoted and referenced in leading scientific journals in the United States and Europe by physicists and chemists studying the properties and molecular spectra of diatomic molecules.

Elmer Imes – Wikipedia: Imes’ work provided an early verification of Quantum Theory. It became known in Europe as well as in the United States.

Much more than a blind Black singer songwriter

Stevie Wonder has long supported the civil rights movement in the US and the world with his music. In addition to being an award winning musical innovator, he is a humanitarian who has used his music to support a number of social causes and political beliefs. Because of his disabilities he is blind Stevie was limited to in what he could do, but because of his enormous talent and popularity he could not be ignored.

He is probably best remembered for his campaign to make Martin Luther King, Jr.’s birthday a national holiday, Wonder released Happy Birthday (1980), a song celebrating Dr. King. The song became a hit and a rallying cry for the King Holiday.

On Monday, January 20, 1986, in cities and towns across the country people celebrated the first official Martin Luther King Day, the only federal holiday commemorating an African-American. Wonder’s song echoed as the anthem of the holiday.

But Stevie Wonder Civil Rights go much deeper than this single event.

The year prior to that in 1985 Stevie had dedicated his song ‘I Just Called To Say I Love You’ to Nelson Mandela. Wonder also joined a number of musicians and entertainers, including Harry Belafonte, Quincy Jones, Lionel Ritchie, and Michael Jackson to produce the song We are the World (1985) to raise funds for humanitarian aid in Africa. He teamed with Gladys Knight and Dionne Warwick, and Elton John (1988) to produce That’s What Friends Are For to support AIDS charities.

Blind from infancy, Steveland Hardaway Judkins moved with his family to Detroit Michigan when he was four years old. When his mother later remarried, he changed his name to Steveland Morris. Young Steveland sang in his church’s choir, and by the time he was nine years old, he had mastered piano, drums and harmonica. Singer Ray Charles became his role model. The child prodigy was discovered in 1961 while performing for friends.

Music mogul Berry Gordy immediately signed him on the Motown label and changed his name to “Little Stevie Wonder.” His first album, A Tribute to Uncle Ray (1962) was released when Wonder was just twelve years old.

By the early 1970s, thought provoking Stevie Wonder albums like Talking Book (1972) Innervisions (1973) and Songs in the Key of Life (1976) propelled the musical genius to the pinnacle of his career, a track from this Pastime Paradise is the basis of Coolio’s ‘Gangsta Paradise with all the strong political despair it embodied and became an anthem for, and was featured in the film Dangerous Minds, starring Michel Pfeiffer.

His 1985 duet with former Beatle Paul McCarthy, “Ebony and Ivory,” became another social statement calling for racial harmony. Stevie Wonder was inducted into the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame in 1989. By 2006, Wonder had been awarded twenty-two Grammy awards and eighteen American Music awards.

In 2016, Stevie Wonder sang at the opening of the National Museum of African American History and Culture for then-President Barack Obama, the first black US president, and his predecessor George W. Bush, as well as thousands of Americans in Washington D.C. In 2014, Wonder was given the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian award in the United States.

That same year Steve Wonder gave a moving speech to the United Nations. In it, he recalled Nelson Mandela’s struggle for democracy, human rights and social justice. Mandela, the former South African president, was “one of the most fantastic, caring and loving people who ever moved on Mother Earth,” Wonder enthused.

Wonder expressed how much Mandela meant to him by naming one of his sons “Mandla” (which means “strength”). In 1985, when the South African activist and politician was still in prison, Wonder received an Oscar for the song “I Just Called To say I Love You,” which as we mentioned above he dedicated to Mandela. The apartheid regime reacted by banning Wonder’s music, he continued to campaign for Mandela’s release.

In 2017, Wonder sang with his son Kwarme Morris in New York City’s Central Park. Like all bands performing at the Global Citizen Festival, they had an agenda: to remind political decision-makers in the USA and around the world of their responsibility to end global poverty, tackle climate change and eliminate inequality by 2030.

Stevie Wonder has not remained silent during the current world crisis. Together with Lady Gaga, Billie Eilish and other stars, he took part in One World Together At Home streaming event in April. Organised by Global Citizen, World Health Organization and the United Nations, the goal was to raise funds for the COVID-19 Solidarity Response fund of the WHO.

International Civil Rights Walk of Fame: Stevie Wonder

Black Man by Stevie Wonder

Verse 1
First man to die
For the flag we now hold high [Crispus Attucks]
Was a black man
The ground were we stand
With the flag held in our hand
Was first the red man’s
Guide of a ship
On the first Columbus trip [Pedro Alonzo Nino]
Was a brown man
The railroads for trains
Came on tracking that was laid
By the yellow man

Chorus
We pledge allegiance
All our lives
To the magic colors
Red, blue and white
But we all must be given
The liberty that we defend
For with justice not for all men
History will repeat again
It’s time we learned
This world was made for all men

Verse 2
Heart surgery
Was first done successfully
By a black man [Dr Daniel Hale Williams]
Friendly man who died
But helped the pilgrims to survive [Squanto]
Was a red man
Farm workers rights
Were lifted to new heights [César Chávez]
By a brown man
Incandescent light
Was invented to give sight [Thomas Edison]
By the white man

Chorus
We pledge allegiance
All our lives
To the magic colors
Red, blue and white
But we all must be given
The liberty that we defend
For with justice not for all men
History will repeat again
It’s time we learned
This world was made for all men

Hear me out

Now I know the birthday of a nation
Is a time when a country celebrates
But as your hand touches your heart
Remember we all played a part in America
To help that banner wave

Verse 3
First clock to be made
In America was created
By a black man [Benjamin Banneker]
Scout who used no chart
Helped lead Lewis and Clark
Was a red woman [Sacagawea]
Use of martial arts
In our country got its start
By a yellow man [Bruce Lee]
And the leader with a pen
Signed his name to free all men
Was a white man [Abraham Lincoln]

Chorus
We pledge allegiance
All our lives
To the magic colors
Red, blue and white
But we all must be given
The liberty that we defend
For with justice not for all men
History will repeat again
It’s time we learned
This world was made for all men

The assassination of Medgar Evers on 12th June 1963 by Byron De La Beckwith and the murder of Hattie Carroll on 9th February 1963 by William Zantzinger, had strong reverberations throughout the USA at the height of and most crucial period of the Civil Rights Movement.

Bob Dylan wrote two classic songs about these two deaths that became iconic links to the Civil Rights Movement, the direct brutality of the lyrics astonished the activists and became an influential style in the art of protest song writing.

More about the songs later (below), let me first discuss the deaths of Evers and Carroll at the hands of White Supremacists.

Medgar Wiley Evers

Was a brilliant and effective Civil Rights activist and distinguished himself fighting in WWII. The fury over Evers’ assissination fuelled the March on Washington in August 1963, and his death is widely considered a pivotal event in the civil rights movement.

Born in 1925, Medgar Evers had followed (his brother) Charles into the Army during WWII. He was assigned to a segregated field battalion in England and France. Although some black soldiers refused to come back from France where they were treated as equals, some vowed to return fighting. As did Medgar he said to his brother after a racial incident:

“When we get out of the Army, we’re going to straighten this thing out”

In 1946, after three years of distinguished military service, Evers received an honourable discharge, finished high school, and enrolled in Alcorn College in Mississippi, where he met his wife Myrlie Beasley.

Alarmed at the level of poverty and destitution he found among the black populace of rural Mississippi, Evers decided to do something about it and joined the NAACP.

In 1954, a few months before the Supreme Court’s Brown v. Board of Education decision, which ruled racial segregation in public schools unconstitutional, Evers volunteered to challenge segregation in higher education and applied to the University of Mississippi School of Law. He was rejected on a technicality, but his willingness to risk harassment and threats for racial justice caught the eye of national NAACP leadership; he was soon hired as the organisation’s first field secretary in Mississippi.

Evers soon began organising local NAACP chapters and coordinating boycotts of gasoline stations that refused to allow African Americans to use their restrooms. Evers’s organisational skills allowed him to bring together isolated groups of disillusioned individuals and meld them into a unified force.

The position catapulted him to what his wife Myrlie later called – No. 1 on the Mississippi ‘to-kill’ list. Evers garnered national attention for organising demonstrations and boycotts and for securing legal assistance for James Meredith, a black man whose 1962 attempt to enroll in the University of Mississippi was met with riots and state resistance. As we have mentioned in previous blogs, his courage gained support from star activists Nina Simone, Lena Horne and spread right to the White House and John F. Kennedy.

In the weeks leading up to his death, Evers found himself the target of a number of threats. His public investigations into the murder of Emmett Till and his vocal support of Clyde Kennard left him vulnerable to attack. On May 28, 1963, a molotov cocktail was thrown into the carport of his home, and five days before his death, he was nearly run down by a car after he emerged from the Jackson NAACP office.

Civil rights demonstrations accelerated in Jackson during the first week of June 1963. A local television station granted Evers time for a short speech, his first in Mississippi, where he outlined the goals of the Jackson movement. Following the speech, threats on Evers’ life increased.

On June 12, 1963, Evers pulled into his driveway after returning from an integration meeting where he had conferred with NAACP lawyers. Emerging from his car and carrying NAACP T-shirts that stated, Jim Crow Must Go.

The events inspired Bob Dylans song Only A Pawn In The Game, unusually for a protest song, Dylan named the assassin in the lyrics.

Evers was struck in the back with a bullet fired from the rifle of Byron De La Beckwith. He staggered 30 feet before collapsing, dying at the local hospital 50 minutes later, who had at first refused him entry because of his colour. Evers was murdered just hours after President John F. Kennedy’s speech on national television in support of civil rights and just five months before Kennedy suffered the same fate.

Byron De La Beckwith a member of the White Citizen’s Council in Jackson, Mississippi and the Klu Klux Klan was acquitted twice in the 1960’s by two all White male juries. He was eventually convicted in 1994 (31 years later). The 1994 state trial was held before a jury consisting of eight black people and four white people.

New evidence included testimony that he had boasted of the murder at a Klan rally, and that he had boasted of the murder to others during the three decades since the crime had occurred. The physical evidence was essentially the same as that presented during the first two trials. They convicted De La Beckwith of first-degree murder for killing Medgar Evers, he was sentenced to life without the chance of parole.

Hattie Carroll

Was not a Civil Rights Worker and nor was she politically active. She sang in the over-45 person choir and was a member of the congregation’s ‘Flower Guild’, charged with beautifying the church. However, in the eyes of her killer she was a worthless ‘nigger’.

She was murdered by, William Zantzinger (not Zanzinger, as Dylan’s lyrics read) He was a wealthy 24 year-old white tobacco farmer and he murdered her because she could not serve him a drink fast enough. Living in the segregated South, Carroll was a barmaid in a Baltimore hotel. Using his cane, Zantzinger hammered about her head for five minutes.

Carroll was born in 1911, possibly on the 3rd March, she had 11 children (not 10 like Dylan wrote), lived in the lower-middle-class black neighborhood of Cherry Hill in Baltimore, and attended the Gillis Memorial Christian Community Church downtown. As with Medgar Evers Dylan named the murderer in the song, The Lonsome Death Of Hattie Carroll.

He was apparently having the time of his life at the hotel’s ‘Spinster’s Ball’, a drunken country mouse in the big city. His drinking and disorderliness quickly turned cruel, as he yelled racial epithets at the Black waiting staff. What’s more, he held onto his cane instead of leaving it at the coat check:

“I was having lots of fun with it, tapping everybody,” he said.

That tapping became more like hitting when it came to a few of the hotel’s Black Staff, including Hattie Carroll, he said:

“I don’t have to take that kind of shit off a nigger,” before he attacked her with his cane..

After this vicious attack she was unable to move her arm and her speech became slurred, she ran to the hotel kitchen for help. At that point, an ambulance was called. She died eight hours later at the hospital from head injuries.

Zantzinger was at first charged with murder, however he was eventually charged with the lesser crime of manslaughter.

Hoping to avoid a racially charged trial and national publicity, the defense opted to forego a jury, and won a change of venue to Hagerstown, Maryland. Many witnesses testified before a panel of judges, who found Zantzinger guilty of manslaughter, but gave him a sentence of only six months. The sentence was handed down on August 28, 1963, the same day that Martin Luther King, Jr. delivered his, I Have a Dream speech in nearby Washington, D.C. If the sentence had been any longer, Zantzinger would have had to serve it in the state prison, but as it was, he could stay at the local jail. Moreover, he was released on bail to get his tobacco crop in before starting his sentence in September.

He received received 6 months in prison for the crime and a fine of $500.

Lyrics – The Lonesome Death Of Hattie Carroll
Bob Dylan

William Zanzinger killed poor Hattie Carroll,
With a cane that he twirled around his diamond ring finger
At a Baltimore hotel society gath’rin’,
And the cops were called in and his weapon took from him
As they rode him in custody down to the station,
And booked William Zanzinger for first-degree murder.

But you who philosophize, disgrace and criticize all fears,
Take the rag away from your face, now ain’t the time for
Your tears.

William Zanzinger, who at twenty-four years,
Owns a tobacco farm of six hundred acres
With rich wealthy parents who provide and protect him,
And high office relations in the politics of Maryland,
Reacted to his deed with a shrug of his shoulders,
And swear words and sneering, and his tongue it was
Snarling,
In a matter of minutes on bail was out walking.

But you who philosophise, disgrace and criticize all fears,
Take the rag away from your face, now ain’t the time for
Your tears.

Hattie Carroll was a maid of the kitchen.
She was fifty-one years old and gave birth to ten children
Who carried the dishes and took out the garbage,
And never sat once at the head of the table
And didn’t even talk to the people at the table,
Who just cleaned up all the food from the table,
And emptied the ashtrays on a whole other level,
Got killed by a blow, lay slain by a cane
That sailed through the air and came down through the room,
Doomed and determined to destroy all the gentle.
And she never done nothing to William Zanzinger.

But you who philosophize, disgrace and criticize all fears,
Take the rag away from your face, now ain’t the time for
Your tears.In the courtroom of honor, the judge pounded his gavel,
To show that all’s equal and that the courts are on the
Level
And that the strings in the books ain’t pulled and
Persuaded,
And that even the nobles get properly handled
Once that the cops have chased after and caught ’em,
And that the ladder of law has no top and no bottom,
Stared at the person who killed for no reason,
Who just happened to be feelin’ that way without warnin’.
And he spoke through his cloak, most deep and distinguished,

And handed out strongly, for penalty and repentance,
William Zanzinger with a six-month sentence.

Oh, but you who philosophize, disgrace and criticize all
Fears,
Bury the rag deep in your face, for now’s the time for your
Tears.

Lyrics – Only A Pawn In Their Game

Bob Dylan

A bullet from the back of a bush
Took Medgar Evers’ blood
A finger fired the trigger to his name
A handle hid out in the dark
A hand set the spark
Two eyes took the aim
Behind a man’s brain
But he can’t be blamed
He’s only a pawn in their game

A South politician preaches to the poor white man
“You got more than the blacks, don’t complain
You’re better than them, you been born with white skin, ” they explain
And the Negro’s name
Is used, it is plain
For the politician’s gain
As he rises to fame
And the poor white remains
On the caboose of the train
But it ain’t him to blame
He’s only a pawn in their game

The deputy sheriffs, the soldiers, the governors get paid
And the marshals and cops get the same
But the poor white man’s used in the hands of them all like a tool
He’s taught in his school
From the start by the rule
That the laws are with him
To protect his white skin
To keep up his hate
So he never thinks straight
‘Bout the shape that he’s in
But it ain’t him to blame
He’s only a pawn in their game

From the poverty shacks,

he looks from the cracks to the tracks
And the hoofbeats pound in his brain
And he’s taught how to walk in a pack
Shoot in the back
With his fist in a clinch
To hang and to lynch
To hide ‘neath the hood
To kill with no pain
Like a dog on a chain
He ain’t got no name
But it ain’t him to blame
He’s only a pawn in their gameToday,

Medgar Evers was buried from the bullet he caught
They lowered him down as a king
But when the shadowy sun sets on the one
That fired the gun
He’ll see by his grave
On the stone that remains
Carved next to his name
His epitaph plain
Only a pawn in their game

The work on crop rotation, soil improvement and the use of nitrogen-fixing plants carried out by George Washington Carver is as relevant today as it was 100 years ago when he did his research. He bucked the trend for huge mono-cropping soil-depleting plantations – cotton, tobacco, sugar. He did this in such a way that was to at first feed poor farmers and secondly to develop new products from nutrient-fixing plants that were initially deemed unprofitable. His focus was on the small farmers and he set up teaching and outreach programmes for them.

This video provides views from scientists about food security today referencing the work carried out by Carver:

George Washington Carver by the Science History Institute

In the post–Civil War South one man made it his mission to use agricultural chemistry and scientific methodology to improve the lives of impoverished farmers.

George Washington Carver (ca. 1864–1943) was born enslaved in Missouri at the time of the Civil War. His exact birth date and year are unknown, and reported dates range between 1860 and 1865. He was orphaned as an infant, and, with the war bringing an end to slavery, he grew up a free child, albeit on the farm of his mother’s former master, Moses Carver. The Carvers raised George and gave him their surname. Early on he developed a keen interest in plants, collecting specimens in the woods on the farm.
 

Education

At age 11, Carver left home to pursue an education in the nearby town of Neosho. He was taken in by an African American couple, Mariah and Andrew Watkins, for whom he did odd jobs while attending school for the first time. Disappointed in the school in Neosho, Carver eventually left for Kansas, where for several years he supported himself through a variety of occupations and added to his education in a piecemeal fashion. He eventually earned a high school diploma in his twenties, but he soon found that opportunities to attend college for young black men in Kansas were nonexistent. So in the late 1880s Carver relocated again, this time to Iowa, where he met the Milhollands, a white couple who encouraged him to enroll in college.

George Washington Carver seated (front row, center) on steps at the Tuskegee Normal and Industrial Institute, with staff, ca. 1902.

George Washington Carver seated (front row, center) on steps at the Tuskegee Normal and Industrial Institute, with staff, ca. 1902. Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division, LC-DIG-ppmsca-05633/Frances Benjamin Johnston

Carver briefly attended Simpson College in Indianola, studying music and art. When a teacher there learned of his interest in botany, she encouraged him to transfer to Iowa State Agricultural College (now Iowa State University), dissuading him from his original dream of becoming an artist. Carver earned his bachelor’s degree in agricultural science from Iowa State in 1894 and a master’s in 1896. While there he demonstrated a talent for identifying and treating plant diseases.
 

Tuskegee

Around this time Booker T. Washington was looking to establish an agricultural department and research facility at his Tuskegee Normal and Industrial Institute in Alabama. Washington, the leading black statesman of the day, and two others had founded the institute in 1881 as a new vocational school for African Americans, and the institute had steadily grown. As Carver was the only African American in the nation with an advanced degree in scientific agriculture, Washington sought him out. Carver joined the faculty of Tuskegee in 1896 and stayed there the rest of his life. He was both a teacher and a prolific researcher, heading up the institute’s Agricultural Experiment Station.

George Washington Carver (second from right) with students in the chemistry laboratory at Tuskegee Institute, ca. 1902.

George Washington Carver with students in the chemistry laboratory at Tuskegee Institute, ca. 1902. Carver stands second from right, facing front (framed by the doorway). Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division, LC-DIG-ds-05586/Frances Benjamin Johnston

Crop Rotation

George Washington Carver standing in a field, probably at Tuskegee, holding a piece of soil, 1906.

George Washington Carver standing in a field, probably at Tuskegee, holding a piece of soil, 1906. Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division, LC-USZ62-114302/Frances Benjamin Johnston

Carver’s primary interest was in using chemistry and scientific methodology to improve the lives of impoverished farmers in southeastern Alabama. To that end he conducted soil studies to determine what crops would grow best in the region and found that the local soil was perfect for growing peanuts and sweet potatoes. He also taught farmers about fertilization and crop rotation as methods for increasing soil productivity. The primary crop in the South was cotton, which severely depleted soil nutrients, but by rotating crops—alternating cotton with soil-enriching crops like legumes and sweet potatoes—farmers could ultimately increase their cotton yield for a plot of land. And crop rotation was cheaper than commercial fertilization. But what to do with all the sweet potatoes and peanuts? At the time, not many people ate them, and there weren’t many other uses for these crops.
 

New Uses for “Undesirable” Crops

Carver went to work to invent new food, industrial, and commercial products—including flour, sugar, vinegar, cosmetic products, paint, and ink—from these “lowly” plants. From peanuts alone he developed hundreds of new products, thus creating a market for this inexpensive, soil-enriching legume. In 1921 Carver famously spoke before the House Ways and Means Committee on behalf of the nascent peanut industry to secure tariff protection and was thereafter known as the Peanut Man. When he first arrived at Tuskegee in 1896, the peanut was not even a recognized U.S. crop; by 1940 it had become one of the six leading crops in the nation and the second cash crop in the South (after cotton). Both peanuts and sweet potatoes were slowly incorporated into Southern cooking, and today the peanut especially is ubiquitous in the American diet.

Carver also developed traveling schools and other outreach programs to educate farmers. He published popular bulletins, distributed to farmers for free, that reported on his research at the Agricultural Experiment Station and its applications.
 

George Washington Carver, Tuskegee Institute, 1906.

George Washington Carver, Tuskegee Institute, 1906. Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division, LC-J601-302/Frances Benjamin Johnston

Recognition

Through chemistry and conviction Carver revolutionized Southern agriculture and raised the standard of living of his fellow man. In addition to the popular honor of being one of the most recognized names in African American history, Carver received the 1923 Spingarn Medal and was posthumously inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame. The George Washington Carver National Monument was the first national monument dedicated to a black American and the first to a nonpresident.

The information contained in this biography was last updated on October 15, 2020. Information from Science History.

More information about George Washington Carver

​​​​​Black History Bootleg

The American Phytopathological Society – Contributions of Dr. George Washington Carver to Global Food Security: Historical Reflections of Dr. Carver’s Fungal Plant Disease Survey in the Southeastern United States: “The primary idea in all my works was to help the farmer and fill the poor man’s dinner pail … My idea is to help the man farthest down. This is why I have made every process just as simple as I could to put it within his reach.” — George Washington Carver, January 16, 1929

Black Past: At Tuskegee, Carver launched a campaign aimed at lifting black farmers out of the desperate poverty in which most of them lived. Though his campaign ultimately failed in its aim, Carver adapted what he had learned in Ames in such a way as to put the application of its principles within reach of impoverished tenant farmers. In so doing, he anticipated the rise of organic farming and the push for the application of “appropriate technology.” As part of his larger efforts, Carver undertook research on numerous southern crops hoping to find a plant that could undermine cotton’s stranglehold on the region. For a variety of reasons, it was his work with peanuts that catapulted him into the national limelight in the early 1920s. As an icon—the Peanut Man—he was embraced by myriad groups for disparate, sometimes antithetical, reasons.

My Black History: After a lifetime of achievements, recognitions and awards, Dr. Carver died in 1943, and is buried on the campus at Tuskegee. Upon his death, Franklin D. Roosevelt sent this message, “All mankind are the beneficiaries of his [George Washington Carver] discoveries in the field of agricultural chemistry. The things which he achieved in the face of early handicaps will for all time afford an inspiring example to youth everywhere.”

Singer – Songwriter – Musician – Actor – Civil Rights Activist

This blog is long overdue for a man who put himself on the line with his prominent Civil Rights activities and who is still kicking but today even though on the 1st March 2021 he saw his 94th birthday.

We should add before we skip through his life that this blog is also a ‘music party blog’ to be exact a CALYPSO PARTY.

Harry Belafonte was mentored in his political beliefs by Paul Robeson, he was also a close confident of Martin Luther King Jr. and as with many activists he came under the spotlight of ‘McCarthyism’ and was blacklisted.

Belafonte did not play at Civil Rights,he got his hands dirty and was in the mix, amongst the many, many things he was involved in are some notable historic moments.

He financed the ‘1961 Freedom Rides’, supported Voter Registration Drives, and helped to organise the 1963 March on Washington. During the 1963 Birmingham Campaign, he bailed Martin Luther King Jr. out of Birmingham City Jail and raised $50,000 to release other civil rights protesters and during the Mississippi Freedom Summer of 1964, Belafonte bankrolled the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, flying to Mississippi that August with Sidney Poitier and $60,000 in cash and entertaining crowds in Greenwood.

Harry Belafonte with Martin Luther King Jr

His list of political activities seem endless and always on the side of the oppressed – the underdog. In 1985, he helped organise and produce the song We Are the World, a multi-artist effort to raise funds for Africa and performed in the Live Aid concert that same year. In 1987 he became a goodwill ambassador for UNICEF, he served as chairman of the ‘International Symposium of Artists and Intellectuals for African Children’.

No decade in his life did he seek a quiet life, by the new century he was campaigning against HIV-AIDS, he is on the board of directors of the non-profit making Civil Rights Advancement Project, he also served on the Advisory Council of the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation. He met with Fidel Castro and Hugo Chavez and opposed George Bush Jr. Middle East war ambitions; on the Black members of the Bush administration, he used a Malcolm X quote when describing Colin Powell and Condeleeza Rice:

“There is an old saying, in the days of slavery. There were those slaves who lived on the plantation, and there were those slaves who lived in the house. You got the privilege of living in the house if you served the master, do exactly the way the master intended to have you serve him. That gave you privilege. 

Colin Powell is committed to come into the house of the master, as long as he would serve the master, according to the master’s purpose. And when Colin Powell dares to suggest something other than what the master wants to hear, he will be turned back out to pasture. And you don’t hear much from those who live in the pasture”

We could go on and on about this remarkable man’s life, and we have not yet mentioned that he made 35 films between 1953 and 2020 including Carmen Jones (1954) and Spike Lee’s BlacKkKlansman (2018).

However let’s jump to the music that most people in the world remember him for, no small thing – he introduced CALYPSO MUSIC to the world.

The single Matilda (1953) became the first widely released Calypso song and was an instant success; this was followed in 1956 by the album Calypso. This album became the first album to sell over a million copies, including the first album to sell a million copies in England alone (I’ve got 2 vinyl copies just in case). Belafonte was nicknamed the King of Calypso, he liked the tag, but true to form he always emphasised that Trinidad & Tobaga were the origins of Calypso music.

At the beginning of his musical career he was a club singer, being backed by the likes of Charlie ParkerMax Roach and Miles Davis;  however at heart he saw himself as a ‘folk singer’, he studied material from the Library of Congress American Folk Songs Archives, in particular music of African Blackroots’, something that dominated his musical output for decades.

There are many things to admire this man for, but let’s be honest Calyso music put sunshine into everyone’s life and a smile on every face.

Benjamin Banneker was an African-American farmer, self-taught mathematician, inventor, surveyor, astronomer and humanitarian. He was born in Maryland on 9th November 1731 and spent most of his life on the tobacco farm that was bequeathed to him. Sadly little is known about this remarkable man, remarkable because of what he achieved during the period in which he lived, in the western world, the Age of Enlightenment that included scientific discoveries.

The internet biographies have conflicting interpretations. For example, undisputedly he was of African descent but some biographies suggest that he also had Irish descent. The other is his role in the survey of the new capital of America, what was to become Washington DC.

Although he received little schooling, Banneker demonstrated exceptional scientific ability. In his early 20s he constructed a clock made almost entirely of wood, with all the internal gears carved by hand.

He built America’s first home-grown clock–out of wood

Banneker was 22 in 1753, writes PBS, and he’d “seen only two timepieces in his lifetime–a sundial and a pocket watch.” At the time, clocks weren’t common in the United States. Still, based on these two devices, PBS writes, “Banneker constructed a striking clock almost entirely out of wood, based on his own drawings and calculations. The clock continued to run until it was destroyed in a fire forty years later.”

Smithsonian Magazine Three Things to Know About Benjamin Banneker’s Pioneering Career by Kat Eschner November 9th 2017

A moveable timepiece was essential for surveying in the field, the measure of longitude and the study of the stars, astronomy. Looking at the history of timepieces, mass produced watches weren’t available until the 1800s. During the period in which Banneker lived, the race was on to find an accurate clock combined with a reference point to measure longitude. This was especially important when at sea, many lives and ships had been lost because capatains were unable to keep their precise location at sea. Banneker’s achievement was remarkable. See A Chronicle of Timekeeping below.

Thomas Jefferson appointed Banneker to the commission charged with planning the construction of Washington D.C. to work alongside Major Andrew Ellicott. He helped survey the site of the national capital between 1791 and 1793. This was despite his age and infirmities. The terrain around the Potomac and Anacostia Rivers were inhospitable.

Widely known as the compiler of The Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, and Virginia Almanac and Ephemeris, which was published annually from 1792 to 1802.

From the Smithonian BENJAMIN BANNEKER’S 1793 ALMANACK AND EPHEMERIS

Banneker spent many nights studying the stars and was able to predict a solar eclipse for April 14, 1789. Two leading astronomers disagreed with his calculations, but Banneker was right. In addition to listing holidays and eclipses, the almanacs provided weather and medical information, the hours of sunrise and sun set, and a tide table for Chesapeake Bay.

 In 1791 he sent the manuscript of his first almanac to revolutionary leader and future U.S. president, Thomas Jefferson, then secretary of state. With the manuscript, Banneker included a letter in which he protested against slavery and disputed Jefferson’s claim that blacks were intellectually inferior to whites. On receiving the manuscript, Jefferson changed his opinion and sent a copy to the French Academy of Sciences in Paris. Abolitionists used the almanacs as evidence of the intellectual capabilities of blacks.

In addition to his work in mathematics and astronomy, Benjamin Banneker proposed that the U.S. government establish a Department of Peace. He also advocated free public education for all children and the elimination of the death penalty.  

Further Reading about Benjamin Banneker

Benjamin Banneker Historical Park and Museum: “In 1985, the land [on which the park and museum are located] was rediscovered as Banneker’s farmstead. A non-profit, the Friends of Benjamin Banneker Historical Park and Museum, was founded and Baltimore County purchased the land with the goal to preserve it for the public. In 1998, a ribbon cutting ceremony was held for the newly built museum.”

Engineering Village: American Black History Month: Benjamin Banneker (1731-1806) by Megan Stalnaker on 02/01/2016: Benjamin Banneker was also an advocate to eradicate slavery. In 1791, he boldly wrote to Thomas Jefferson, then Secretary of State, to scold him and others of hypocrisy in drafting the Declaration of Independence. He quoted Jefferson’s words stating that, “all men are created equal” saying, “in detaining by fraud and violence so numerous a part of my brethren under groaning captivity and cruel oppression, that you should at the Same time be found guilty of that most criminal act, which you professedly detested in others, with respect to yourselves.” Banneker also demanded Jefferson and other Declaration of Independence participants to, “wean yourselves from those narrow prejudices which you have imbibed with respect to” African Americans.

Black Past Benjamin Banneker: In 1788, George Ellicott, a keen amateur astronomer, lent Banneker books and instruments that enabled him to construct tables predicting the positions of the stars and future solar and lunar eclipses. Three years later, Andrew Ellicott hired Banneker to assist him in surveying the boundaries of the ten-mile square site of the future Federal capital of Washington, D.C.  In that year, too, Banneker won the backing of several Philadelphia, Pennsylvania supporters of the anti-slavery cause to print his work in the popular form of an almanac. Its 1792 publication, introduced by letters pointing out how Banneker’s accomplishments disproved the myth of Negro inferiority, was a considerable success and produced twenty-seven further editions of “Banneker’s Almanac” over the next five years.  Banneker sent a manuscript copy of his work to Secretary of State Thomas Jefferson along with a plea against the continuance of black slavery and received a courteous, if evasive, reply. But Jefferson praised Banneker as “a very respectable mathematician” in forwarding the manuscript to the notice of the French Academy of Sciences.

A Chronicle of Timekeeping in Scientific America

Smithsonian Magazine Three Things to Know About Benjamin Banneker’s Pioneering Career by Kat Eschner November 9th 2017

Benjamin Banneker and the Survey of the District of Columbia, 1791 by Silvio A. Bedini: Confirmation of this appointment occurs in Jefferson’s letter relating to Banneker’s almanac, which he addressed to the Marquis de Condorcet in the following year, and in which he commented about Banneker (Letter from Thomas Jefferson – later President Thomas jefferson – to the Marquis de Condorcet dated August 31, The Jefferson-Coolidge Papers, Manuscript Collection, Massachusetts Historical Society, 7S.I.38-43.) that:

I procured him [Banneker] to be employed under one of our chief directors [George Ellicott] in laying out the new Federal City [Washington DC] on the Patowmac. . . .

See also Founders Online: From Thomas Jefferson to Condorcet, 30 August 1791 the ‘negro’ in question is Benjamin Banneker

Famous Black Inventors: Like a lot of early inventors, Benjamin Banneker was primarily self-taught. The son of former slaves, Benjamin worked on the family tobacco farm and received some early education from a Quaker school. But most of his advanced knowledge came from reading, reading and more reading. At 15 he took over the farm and invented an irrigation system to control water flow to the crops from nearby springs. As a result of Banneker’s innovation, the farm flourished – even during droughts.

Reconstructing Molly Welsh: Race, Memory and the Story of Benjamin Banneker’s Grandmother – A Master’s Thesis Presented by Sandra Perot. Perot was of the firm belief that the Irish indentured labourer, Molly Welsh, was Benjamin Banneker’s grandmother. She says: Of the over one hundred biographies and stories about Benjamin Banneker that
have been published, only a handful can be said to be grounded in “reliable” sources
gathered from individuals who met or knew Banneker personally. These biographies
were authored by the Revolutionary War advocate James McHenry, and anti-slavery
advocates Susannah Mason, John Latrobe, Martha Tyson, and Tyson’s daughter, Anne
Kirk. Three of these authors met Banneker, and Tyson lived in the same small town as
him. Interest in Banneker did not wane as the nineteenth century came to a close.
Martha Tyson prepared two manuscripts on Benjamin Banneker.

Benjamin Banneker – Wikipedia

Benjamin Banneker: The Black Tobacco Farmer the Presidents Coundn’t Ignore – the White House Historical Association